‘Superstar’ looks into the past

By Colin Shively

At age 6, Matthew Santos was already starting his musical career as he pounded away at the piano. By 15, he was strumming away at the guitar.

A native Minnesotan, Santos relocated to Chicago to attend Columbia and study musical composition. However, college isn’t for everyone.

Santos left Columbia at the time his musical career began to flourish in Chicago’s music scene.

Despite leaving the school, Columbia helped Santos in his musical writings and in his connections in Chicago, which led him to perform with popular Chicago artist Lupe Fiasco in the hit song “Superstar.”

Santos was nominated for a Grammy, along with Fiasco, and he also toured with other popular Chicago artists.

His own unique style of blending rock, folk and indie music has given Santos the quality of music that reaches many diverse music lovers.

The Chronicle talked with Santos about his career, performing with Lupe Fiasco and what it is like to become a national musical sensation.

The Chronicle: Lupe Fiasco was your big break; what was it like collaborating with him?

Matthew Santos: It was cool, it was simple. He has a lot of ideas and he knows how to get into someone’s voice. He basically approached me with some ideas and we made them a little more musical. Before we knew it, we were touring the world with a hit song.

The Chronicle: What was the point, or period, where you realized that your career in music was really picking up?

MS: It was stretched across a couple of months when I was doing David Letterman, Ellen DeGeneres, [MTV’s] TRL; I was doing all these huge high-profile TV programs, and then it jumped to a Kanye West tour and I was performing in front of 30,000 people. It was just incredible. It was pretty much six months of last year starting in the beginning of 2008. That was definitely a significant time for me. It wasn’t exactly my style of music, but it was a wonderful experience.

The Chronicle: Fans say that your musical genre is rock, folk and indie—are they accurate?

MS: Well I guess I would say that there are elements of all three genres in my music. There are definitely a lot of different influences, but those are the main three. It depends where the inspiration comes from. Sometimes it is a concept, idea or exploration of some sort of sadness in my life. A lot of my music deals with sadness and working through those emotional issues. I have my main muse that inspires my main songs.

The Chronicle: How do you think you fit into the Chicago music scene?

MS: I don’t really know what the Chicago music scene is to be honest. It is all over the place. You have a strong hip-hop presence and you have indie bands. I guess I fit into it a bit. On our upcoming album, we have a lot of Chicago bands playing with us. We have a few from Columbia that performed on the album.

The Chronicle: How did you produce your album since you don’t belong to a record company?

MS: I produced the album with my friend “G Ball” and we recorded it all here in Chicago and decided to release it independently. “G Ball” has a recording studio called The Attic where it was recorded and produced—everything is looking good so far.

Matthew Santos plans to release his untitled album in early 2010 and has a pre-album release party on Dec. 4 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave. For more information, visit MySpace.com/MatthewSantos.